Harper’s Other Dad comes from a family where genealogy is part of the culture. They have traced their roots back centuries and the results have been shared and are well known to everyone in the family. I got my first taste of this attending a family reunion where people were grouped together for photographs by number; “Now all the 5’s” or “No; you’re not in this one, you’re a 7”. I learned the numbers refer to the number of generations distant from some common ancestor. As recently as last week I saw new pictures taken on a family member’s recent trip to the place in England where the family lived before coming to the New World. This is not something my family ever kept track of and I can’t say I ever felt the loss of it.
Recently, however, I have been looking at old photographs. Some of the people are recognizable, others complete mysteries. This, and a few well-timed tv commercials, led me to explore Ancestry.com. I must say it is kind of addicting. Those little green leaves pop up with “hints” and there is nothing for it but to click on them and see where they lead. It would be rude not to!
There are 14 people (plus a dog!) in this photograph. I can identify 6 of them and have good guesses for a couple more. The others…?? I know it is not the Joads because it was taken in St. Louis about 10 yrs before their trek west from Oklahoma.
I find I am enjoying the exploration. I can’t say I feel particularly connected to the people with whom I share common ancestry but I am thoroughly enjoying the detective work. It is the process; the hunt. Maybe this is a good example of something where the journey is truly more important than the destination.
I’m just beginning. My family tree includes only 104 names running back to one of my great-great grandfathers. I had a lucky break, however. Through Ancestry.com I was able to contact a person who was working on the same family; my maternal grandmother’s. The researcher tells me we are third cousins, once removed, because my 2x great-grandfather was her 3x great-grandfather. She was kind enough to give me access to her tree which includes more than 29,000 names. Gulp!
I’m learning much about the discipline required to make progress at this. It is very easy to follow the paths of least resistance. Those darn leaves! My maternal grandmother was married briefly before she married my grandfather. Her first husband was killed in an accident in their second year of marriage and they had no children. His family is very well documented and makes for fascinating reading. I found I was able to spend several hours looking through it before reminding myself that none of these people are actually related to me in any way.
I’ve also learned the records are challenging. Names are spelled differently in the Census Record compared to a death certificate, for example. My 2x great-grandfather is listed as “Stuart” in some records, “Matthew Stewart” in others, and “M.S.” in still others. Every possible variation in spelling exists for first, middle and last names. My 2x great-grandfather had a nephew whose name is either “Wrather” of “Danther”. The same 2x g-gf had a brother whose name was “Finnis Talmer Wallace”. People called him “Finnie”. His wife’s name was Wilena but apparently she was known as “Fanny”. It is unclear whether Fanny was actually part of her name or if they just liked being called “Finnie & Fanny”. I hope it is the latter.
A previous posting contained an error. I posted this picture previously identifying it as my great grandparents with my infant grandmother. This would have dated it to the late 1890’s. In doing some additional research, I have determined this is actually my grandmother’s sister, her husband, and their daughter. The correct date is probably 1919. One of the ways I was able to resolve my questions was by consulting a friend who has expertise in vintage fashions. Thanks TDS! It is so much better to have friends who know ‘stuff’ than it is to try to be smart.